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Thursday, April 28, 2016

The TMS Chronicles: Majoring in Economics?

It's that time once again, where I pick up on the exploits (words chosen carefully) of one of my favourite digital rags and their quest for clicks. TheMarySue has really hit it out of the park this time, with a stunningly titled article called Don’t Blame Readers for Low Sales of Diverse Comics

In the simplest terms here I'm going to say this: No. No, I am definitely going to blame readers for low sales of diverse comics. 

But let's look at some of their reasons first. Their article is allegedly a rebuttal to another one, titled Comics: You’ve Got Your Diversity, So Why Don’t You Buy Them?, but it's written in such a way that the original article serves as its own rebuttal to TMS's, so again I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, but it's a dead horse that refuses to roll over and die completely.
When it comes to accessibility, everyone doesn’t obtain their comics the same way. Some may visit their local comic shop, bookstore, or even Walmart.
The original article takes this into account, and even if it didn't, I guarantee you Marvel knows how many copies of Ms Marvel Wal-Mart sold, returned, or had to mark as loss prevention.
Others may buy digital comics from places like Comixology or Humble Bundle. 
These are two completely different beasts. Comixology reports that information back to Marvel and DC, so they know how many copies of what book are selling, and can take that into account in deciding which titles continue to be renewed. Humble Bundle, on the other hand, probably doesn't report that, but in the end it doesn't matter because the way profits are set up on those a customer could pay all of their money towards a charity, towards the publisher, or towards Humble itself, or split it any of those ways. That's not a guaranteed return, no matter how much the comics are enjoyed by the end user.
Moreover, some people borrow comics from other people who bought comics, such as a friend or a library.
Look, I'm sympathetic to this one. When I was a kid and didn't have much money, I had to borrow comics from friends, too. The first issues of X-Men and Excalibur (which would later become one of my favourite books) were borrowed from a friend. But as much as I enjoyed those, and later went on to buy marvel books of my own (including a lot of those issues I'd borrowed), they only counted as one sale: the original purchaser. If one person buys a comic and 20 people read it, that's not 21 readers in the business sense, that's just one.
Another important factor to consider is whether comic shops are friendly enough to their customers that they want to buy comics. In 2014, Comic creator and cartoonist Noelle Stevenson made a Tumblr comic about how men treated her at a comic store. While tools such as Girl Wonder help with finding comic shops that treat their female customers well, there are still less respectable comic shops that can discourage female comic book readers.
There's precisely one way to go about fixing this: Go to the comics shops in droves. Fill them with women to the point that any icky cis-het while dudebro comic shop owners see a change in their bottom line. What you're having to overcome is being part of a demographic that another demographic associates with ridicule of their hobby while growing up.

It will take time. There will be misunderstandings. But change is slow and painful and worth it. If you want to be part of your local comic shop scene, then make yourself a part of it.
Sometimes, accessibility is also tied into whether or not people can afford to buy comics. As a comic fan on a budget, I rarely buy comics more than a few times a year (birthdays, a couple personal treats, and Christmas).
Again, I get you. I feel terrible today because I just bid $40 on an imported figure of Lightning from Final Fantasy and another $30 on an out-of-production unmasked Batgirl figure. I got bills to pay, too, but having a hobby can be expensive and it's a sacrifice you'll have to make. You either buy the product and show your support of the manufacturer in a way that impacts their bottom line, or you blog about it and give moral support. You may decide which is more important, but you won't necessarily come to the same conclusion as the person selling it. Also, did you just say that you write about comics but hardly ever buy them?
Of course, you can’t buy or read any comics if you don’t even know about them.
Invalid. Agreeing ideologies practically own Bleedingcool, ComicsAlliance, and any number of geek culture websites, and if you don't feel you can trust people who agree with you on practically everything, go to your local comic shop and ask "What's new? What's good?" I'm sure icky cis-het white dudebro will happily make a suggestion if you can give him a clue to what you're looking for. On top of that, I Googled "diverse comics" and not only was given a ton of suggestions including your own article, a Tumblr blog and Facebook group dedicated to diverse comics, but also a Google image search including Miles Morales, female Thor, Sam Wilson's Captain America, Ms Marvel, and some book I'd never even heard of by Gail Simone. It's 2016, people. If you want to know about something, it's never been easier to look it up.
Even television shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jessica Jones aren’t as diverse as they could be, with characters of color either relegated to the background or killed off.
You... you do know that Jessica Jones review I wrote was a parody, right?
Comic book readers and potential comic book readers are just as diverse as the characters and stories they want to see. They are more than just numbers and statistics, but readers with circumstances and personal preferences that affect how they read comics. Instead of blaming existing readers for not buying diverse comics, we must devise better ways to make them accessible and draw in more readers —something all publishers should be interested in.
Yes. Yes, they are. And they've always been. They're just more vocal about it now. And that's great, but they can't *just* be vocal. They have to go out and support their favourite books, otherwise they can't cry foul when a metric shit-ton of collectors go out and buy All-New All-Female Thor #1 and then the sales figures drop by 75% by issue 4.

Dedicated fans know that the fundamentals will always be there, and they'll buy Captain America when Steve Rogers has the shield, and they'll keep buying it and enjoy Sam Wilson flying around on his mechanical wings with the shield because they know eventually Steve will be back. Be dedicated fans, or don't be surprised when A-Force or Totally Awesome Hulk are cancelled because less than 10,000 copies are being moved every month.

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